PL Sunday preview: Chelsea host Arsenal; Rooney returns to OT

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Gigantic top-four implications in game no. 1, and a “real legend” returns to his old haunt in game no. 2 — Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures are nothing short of must-see TV.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City unstoppable; Liverpool, Spurs held ]

Chelsea vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

This is Arsenal’s new reality, six times minimum this season: Thursday night Europa League, followed by an even greater challenge, PL opposition, less than 72 hours later. Suffice to say, much rides on Arsene Wenger‘s side re-establishing themselves as a Champions League club next season. Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge, where the Gunners will take on the defending champions in fine form (three straight wins after an opening-day defeat), is the type of game in which they’ve squandered what might be seen as “bonus” points in recent seasons.

Sunday could also see the return of Eden Hazard to the starting lineup, quite an untimely occurrence from Arsenal’s vantage point. After playing the final 30 minutes of Tuesday’s CL thrashing of Qarabag, the Belgian superstar is nearing full fitness after three months on the sideline due to a broken ankle suffered in early June.

“For sure he’s improving,” Conte said. “Having this patience with him is paying off. He is very close to being totally fit. We have to continue in this way. I have to make the best decision for the team and the players, but he is improving a lot and is very close to being 100 percent fit.”

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: Danny Drinkwater (calf) | Arsenal — OUT: Francis Coquelin (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (achilles); PROBABLE: Aaron Ramsey (knock), Mesut Ozil (knock)

[ MORE: Guardiola salutes Aguero’s brilliance, but has one complaint ]

Manchester United vs. Everton — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Not only does Sunday’s meeting between Manchester United and Everton mark the return of Wayne Rooney to Old Trafford, the arena in which he thrilled and dazzled for 13 years, but also Romelu Lukaku‘s first clash with his former club following his $97-million transfer this summer. Familiarity (typically) breeds contempt, though Sunday should prove a joyous reunion for so many familiar faces.

After essentially swapping frontmen in the summer, the start of the 2017-18 season has produced drastically different sets of results for Man United and Everton. Take, for example, Toffees boss Ronald Koeman, who’s already feeling a bit of pressure after spending nearly $180 million this summer.

“It is not the time or the place to criticize the players,” Koeman said. “I have to criticize myself because the team was not prepared. It is a big lesson. I thought that was happening after the third goal against Tottenham at the weekend but I need to ask myself the question what I did wrong.”

As for Jose Mourinho’s men, for the first time since the Portuguese took over last summer, all is well at Old Trafford. Back in the CL (where they’re flying high) and battling with Chelsea and Manchester City in the race for the PL title, last week’s 2-2 draw away to Stoke City is the still-young season’s only blemish. Lukaku has already paid off in the form of five goals (four in the PL), while the youthful duo of Anthony Martial (21 years old) and Marcus Rashford (19) each have a pair of PL goals to their name. United, along with no one other than Man City, have conceded just twice this season.

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Paul Pogba (hamstring), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Luke Shaw (fitness), Marcos Rojo (knee) | Everton — OUT: Ross Barkley (back), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee)

Reports: Kieran Trippier flies to Spain for Atletico Madrid medical

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According to a host of reports across England including Sky Sports, The Telegraph, and The Guardian, Tottenham defender Kieran Trippier is flying to Spain for a medical ahead of a move to Atletico Madrid.

This transfer has expedited extremely rapidly over the last 12 to 24 hours, with nearly all reports connecting the two parties coming out today.

According to the reports, a base fee of $25 million has been agreed upon with add-ons on top of that, as Atletico Madrid looks to replace the retiring Juanfran. The medical seems to be a preemptive measure, with work seemingly still to do on the transfer, as Sky says the deal could be completed “by the weekend.”

Trippier, a 28-year-old England international who started for his country at the World Cup last summer, has three years left on his Tottenham contract. Trippier’s emergence saw him regarded as one of the best right-backs in the Premier League alongside Kyle Walker, but at times last season defensive flaws were exposed despite the club’s title chase and run to the Champions League final. Towards the end of last season, young Juan Foyth at times was preferred in the back-three.

All the reports state that Trippier is not expected to travel with the team to Singapore on Wednesday for the club’s preseason tour.

Tottenham still has Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters to take over at Trippier’s right-back position, but there would be some work needed in that regard. Trippier was molded from a natural right-back into a center-back option as part of a back-three both at the club and international level, and it doesn’t seem like the two remaining options would be able to fit that role. Aurier is a marauding wing-back with more attacking ability than defensive, while Walker-Peters is a 22-year-old who can dribble but has shown inconsistent defensive abilities and at this point struggles in the air and crossing.

Instead, should Pochettino stay with a three-CB formation, Foyth would likely start over either those two at the back given his versatility and sharp rise through both the club and international ranks. Foyth impressed enough this summer at the Copa America that he could even get looks at center-back or right-back in a traditional defensive setup.

Arsenal director Kroenke responds to supporter group letter

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A unified group of 16 supporter groups sent Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke a letter urging the head man to show “better leadership” in helping rebuild the squad and return the Gunners to the Champions League in what will be a third successive season outside Europe’s top competition.

His son Josh, currently serving as a member of the Arsenal board, responded to the letter by saying he “respects” the fans’ passion but also noting that it “hurts” to have his own called into question.

“As Arsenal fans, we have watched with frustration as the team’s football performances have declined over the past decade,” the letter from the fans read. “When Stan Kroenke began buying Arsenal shares, the club had just ­competed in a first Champions League final. Twelve years on, Arsenal are about to play in the Europa League for the third year running.”

The letter also hit out at the “soulless atmosphere” at the Emirates and attacked the “lack of strategy” when it came to player recruitment and investment into the squad, noting that money spent is not the issue, but instead the execution of the team build.

The younger Kroenke responded to the coordinated message, saying he takes his position with the club seriously because he can feel the emotion behind the decisions made.

“Is it hard to take? Absolutely,” Josh Kroenke said of the letter. “But I’m not in this business to make friends, I’m in it to win. If anyone is ever going to question anything about our ownership – which I view as a custodianship, the supporters trust us to be a custodian of the values — that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to win whilst also respecting the values and traditions of the club.”

“I was there in Baku [for the Europa League final] on behalf of KSE [Kroenke Sports & Entertainment], my father and family. I was down there on the sidelines, on the medal podium handing out second-place medals. I saw the look on our coach’s face, our players and all our staff. I felt and I saw what they felt. I felt the same way. The most important thing about being down on the pitch is understanding that there is a resolve there. There are some people who are also pretty pissed off that we had dropped that last match. That resolve should serve us well.”

Finally, Kroenke addressed the money available this summer, and highlighted the difficulties presented by the Europa League loss, which left Arsenal yet again on the outside looking in as Chelsea qualified for the Champions League. It wasn’t exactly an encouraging message for fans.

“If we’re going into the finer points I’d have to defer to these guys [managing director Vinai Venkatesham and head of football Raul Sanllehi]. I’ve always told them we need to be as aggressive as possible. It’s no secret that we have a Champions League wage bill on a Europa League budget right now. That’s a fact. And one that we’re figuring out how to face internally at the moment.”

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Haller nearing West Ham move, Lovren to AC Milan

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According to multiple reports across England, West Ham is close to its marquee Marko Arnautovic replacement as Sebastian Haller is nearly a Hammer.

Haller’s club Eintracht Frankfurt confirmed that the 25-year-old is on his way to London for a medical and will be a Hammer before long. His signature would represent a club-record fee of $55.9 million according to both the BBC and Sky Sports, far surpassing the $44.7 million paid for Felipe Anderson.

Haller is a goalscorer as well as a contributor, bagging 24 goals in 60 Bundesliga appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt in his two years with the club and also assisting 13 more. The analytics folks love the move.

With Lucas Perez, Arnautovic and Andy Carroll all having departed the club this summer, the addition of Haller is a much-needed boost to the West Ham attack that includes Felipe, Robert Snodgrass, and Javier Hernandez.


Divisive Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, who infamously declared not so long ago that he is the best defender in the world, is rumored to be considering a move away from Anfield after last season’s Champions League winning campaign.

According to Nicolo Schira of Gazzetta dello Sport, Lovren is a target for AC Milan, although he would likely be asked to take a serious pay cut from his current Anfield salary. The report says that Liverpool wants at least $22 million for Lovren’s services, and that AC Milan would offer him a contract of $13.6 million over four years. That’s a significant drop from the $5.6 million a year he makes currently.

Still, if a deal can be struck, it may be enticing for Lovren considering his playing time at Liverpool has dipped in the past year. Now 30 years old, Lovren appeared in just 13 games for Liverpool last season, partially due to a pair of injuries but also having lost his place to Joel Matip. He was on the bench behind Matip for the final three matches of the Champions League run after starting the final next to Virgil Van Dijk the year before.


According to French publication L’Equipe, Southampton is in talks with OGC Nice to offload winger Sofiane Boufal. The Moroccan international joined Saints in 2016 from Lille but spent last season on loan with Spanish club Celta Vigo where hee scored just three goals in 35 league appearances.

With those struggles, his value has reportedly dropped to just $11.2 million, having been purchased for $21 million three years ago. L’Equipe says that while fellow French clubs Marseille and Bordeaux were interested, neither wanted to commit to a permanent transfer, with both wishing for a loan with an option to buy, whereas Nice has gone the extra mile.

Boufal was with the Moroccan squad in the Africa Cup of Nations this summer, appearing in three of their four matches, with all three appearances off the bench. He did not score or assist a goal.


Over the past few days there have been reports that should Leicester City cash in on Harry Maguire to Manchester United, they could pounce for Brighton defender Lewis Dunk as his replacement for about half the reported fee they would receive from the Red Devils. Now, with more time to think, that price may have spooked the Foxes.

According to Rob Dorsett of Sky Sports, Leicester City may decide to stick with internal replacements instead of spend big on a defender they don’t believe to be of accurate value in the market. Dorsett mentions 23-year-old Caglar Soyuncu and 22-year-old Filip Benkovic as possible options to receive more playing time.

Benkovic, a Dinamo Zagreb youth product who arrived at Leicester City last summer, received his Croatian international debut this summer as a reward for a solid loan spell at Celtic last season. Aside from an ankle injury that sidelined him for all of February, Benkovic was a regular in the Celtic lineup and helped them post a glittering defensive record en route to the Scottish Premiership title, conceding just 20 goals in 38 matches. Celtic also lost every Europa League match that Benkovic missed, while they won three and lost one of the four he played.

Soyuncu joined Leicester last summer as well, coming over from German side Freiburg, but only saw the field for six Premier League matches, starting four. Of the four matches he started, the club conceded just one goal in every game, and he also started the EFL Cup loss to Manchester City that saw the league champions score just once in regulation before losing on penalties.


Kieran Trippier is reportedly receiving interest from major European clubs and could be considering an exit from Tottenham this summer, despite the season drawing closer. According to Daily Telegraph reporter Matt Law, Trippier has particularly interested Atletico Madrid, who could be in for a $25 million move.

Given Trippier’s growth at Tottenham and importance to Mauricio Pochettino‘s setup, selling a player of Trippier’s quality for that low a price seems a poor decision for Spurs, but if the player has his head turned after a run to the Champions League final there may not be much the club can do.

A right-back by trade, Trippier was recently deployed by Pochettino as part of a three-center-back system that saw the England international transform into one of the most versatile defenders in the Premier League, maintaining a strong defensive stance but also swinging out wide to perform wing-back duties at times and becoming one of the Premier League’s best free-kick takers.

Trippier’s name has cropped up a few times this summer, but nothing remotely concrete has taken hold and it would at this point be surprising if Daniel Levy allows an England international in his prime with three years left on his contract to depart so cheaply.

Some of the best new 2019/20 kit releases so far

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One of the most enjoyable parts of the run-up to the new season is following clubs slowly trickle out their new home and away kits for the upcoming campaign.

Kit releases are becoming a bigger and bigger deal as kit makers pour more and more money into lucrative contracts. As we slowly make our way towards the new 2019/20 season, here are a few of the best releases across Europe so far. Obviously, these are extremely subjective, so if you feel one has been left out or strongly dislike one on the list, let us know what you think!

Arsenal away kit

The Gunners have produced some iconic kits in the past, and also some horrific ones, preferring on many previous occasions to be bold and risk it all, to mixed results. This season, Arsenal’s away kit is yellow, and unlike a number of swings & misses with yellow in the past, this one is fresh. The club brought in NBA star James Harden to model the new away kit, and it rules. The yellow isn’t too bright and the background V pattern keeps it interesting but not eye-popping which can be the trouble with yellow at times.

AS Roma away kit

Speaking of bold, Roma did risk it all this season with their away kit, and we’re glad they did. The Italian club unveiled a white kit with a lightning bolt splashed in the club’s maroon, yellow, and orange colors. It’s an outstanding choice done well, and proves one of this season’s most intriguing looks.

FC Barcelona away kit

While the Spanish giants’ home kit is a checkerboard pattern that doesn’t necessarily jump off the page, the away kit is another successful use of yellow. Like Arsenal’s, the yellow isn’t a staggeringly bright shade, instead allowing the diagonal sash to smartly take center stage. Check out new signing Frenkie de Jong unveiling the kit.

Bayern Munich home & away kits

Bayern Munich produced a fresh double this season, with a new-age home kit that looks fantastic plus a clean white away kit that jumps off the page. The home kit, as you can see on Benjamin Pavard below, is the typical Bayern Munich red with a subtle background that helps the kit pop, while the away kit is plain white that just looks outstanding, with the bottom of the shirt sporting a small dot pattern that gives it some form of uniqueness, as David Alaba shows off.

Celtic home kit

Hoops and collars are both often a feast or famine type of design, and while plenty of hoop kits have failed miserably in the past, Celtic nails both this season. As you can see below, they stopped the hoops above the shoulder, and that helps the green collar jump off the design. Along with the plain white shorts and green socks, this kit is a standout product.

Chelsea home kit

Like Bayern Munich, Chelsea went for the background pattern behind the club’s well-known main color, but the Blues went for a much bolder pattern, choosing to sport a randomized criss-cross that really pops behind the dark blue hue. As you can see youth product Mason Mount show off while announcing his new contract, the various sized lines are interesting but also not distracting.

Inter home kit

I audibly gasped when I saw this kit for the first time. Inter, always a leader in the kit department with the famed Pirelli logo, has produced a fabulous home kit for the upcoming campaign. Unlike last season which was just straight vertical stripes, this year’s kit has the stripes that break behind the sponsor logo and return to normal underneath, and it looks amazing, as does that particular shade of blue.

Marseille home kit

Puma knocked it out of the park for the French side, scaling back the blue to a white kit with blue pinstripes and the blue logo. It’s an outstanding look, as you can see on midfielder Morgan Sanson below. Coincidentally, they have some absolutely fire training gear to go along with it as well.

Nottingham Forest away kit

How about a Championship club to add to the mix? Nottingham Forest released a smart looking away kit that splits the two sides of the shirt into dark blue and black, and it works to perfection. Working with an already clean-looking sponsor logo and the white outline of the club crest without the red, the two-sided look is a great one. A cool touch to include the ladies squad in the kit release as well.

Wolverhampton Wanderers home & away kit

Wolves has quietly been one of the consistently best English kit producers, and they got it right again this year on both counts. The home kit is a simple yellow-orange with a subtle lined pattern in the background that looks great with the three adidas lines under the arm, while the away kit is black with diagonal yellow pinstripes that jump. Well done.

Ajax

As a bonus for making it this far down the list, here’s a bold choice that flat out doesn’t work. Ajax released its new 2019/20 away kit fresh off its run to the Champions League semifinal, and the combination of a weird forest green and an eye-burning traffic cone orange makes for a face-melting combination. Sorry, Daley Blind, but this is a hard pass.